ISLAMABAD: A day after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected electronic voting machines (EVMs), the government, on Friday, declared the chief election commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja as the opposition parties’ “designated mouthpiece”. Speaking at a hurriedly-called presser, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry along with Babar Awan, adviser to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs, and Azam Swati, the minister for railways, said that “it seems the ECP has become the headquarters for the opposition parties and the CEC is acting as their “mouthpiece””.
Raja, whose family had close links with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was appointed as the CEC by the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was also accused by the top government ministers of being in close contact with the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
“The chief election commissioner – who may have had contact – naturally, he may have had close contact with Nawaz Sharif, and others – and may even have sympathies for him [Sharif], which we have no issue with – but whether it is the election commission, or any other institution, it must abide by the parliament,” declared Chaudhry.
In the same breath, the flamboyant information minister continued that no one is satisfied with what the ECP is up to regarding the EVMs because it comes up with strange logic.
He said the PTI-led government had promised to make the ECP free, fair, and transparent, and to that end, a commission for reforms – headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk– was also formed.
However, the ECP remains surrounded by controversies due to its strange logic, which is not acceptable as free and fair election is the need of the hour.
The minister said the PTI government had asked the opposition to come forward and participate in discussions related to electoral reforms.
“The government wanted to incorporate technology in the electoral process to ensure transparency, but it seems like the ECP has become the headquarters for the opposition parties,” he lamented.
He said that all institutions of the country, including the ECP, must abide by the law.
Chaudhry said that in fact, it was not the ECP that must be considered as a whole, while talking about the law, but the chief election commissioner, who had become fond of acting as a mouthpiece of the opposition.
He said PML-N leaders were trying to make legal amendments related to the use of EVMs, controversial.
The minister said the chief election commissioner should either take a look at his behaviour or join politics. “You [CEC Raja] better not become a tool used by small political parties,” Chaudhry warned the ECP boss.
He added that whenever the opposition loses in elections, it starts crying foul about rigging.
“Our opposition comprises intellectually-stunted parties. The only skill they have is to seek extensions for the hearings of their court cases,” he added.
Speaking about the incorporation of technology into the electoral process, Chaudhry said that even the Supreme Court of Pakistan endorsed it, to ensure transparency.
Speaking on the occasion, Babar Awan said the bill on electoral reforms was passed in the National Assembly after eight months but the opposition did not present a single suggestion throughout this period.
“The opposition has become the enemy of electoral reforms as they want to maintain the status quo,” he added.
Besides, he said that bill had to be passed by the Senate in 90 days but it was rejected only a few hours before the conclusion of the stipulated 90-day period.
“It is for the first time in history that the Senate committee bulldozed the government’s legislation,” he added.
“We’ve now decided to take the bill to the joint session of parliament on September 13 and will convene a National Assembly session a day after that,” he added.
Awan said the government would soon complete the legislation under a Supreme Court order.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021